Somewhat paradoxically, both measures post all-time high rates
Americans are polarized when it comes to politics, guns, and the New York Yankees. Now, maybe, we can add some basic health metrics to the conversation, as well.
This week, the National Center for Health Statistics released data showing divergent all-time highs: More Americans than ever before, 31.4%, are obese.
At the same time, more Americans than ever before met federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity, at 54.8%.
The obesity figure continues a well-known trend. The 31.4% reflects just the first 3 months of 2017, but would represent an increase of nearly a full percentage point from 2016. In 1997, for perspective, the rate was under 20%. There were significant differences in obesity rates by race among women. It was most pronounced in African-American women -- within that population, the obesity rate was 48.9%. Among Hispanic women, the rate was 34.2%; white women were at 29.4%. There were no significant differences among males by race.
The growth in people meeting aerobic guidelines, however, has been far less linear. The guidelines call for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
From 1997 to 2006, the rate was stable, hovering at around 40%. Since then, there's been a steady uptick.
Males were more likely than their female counterparts to meet requirements at every age group. As people age, the rate of people meeting the requirements decreased. Whites were far more likely to meet the standards than African Americans or Hispanic people, at nearly 60% last year. African Americans came in at 45.4%; Hispanics, at 45.6%.
It's noteworthy, though, that these data came from the National Health Interview Survey and thus relied on respondents' self-reports. It therefore remains possible that what has changed isn't so much people's exercise habits, but what they tell pollsters about them.
Would love to repeat that "You Can't Outrun a Bad Diet" ...and that may indeed be true...but just as likely people lied about how much they exercised.